To kick off the school year, you may have splurged on a fresh Herschel backpack to sport around campus. But did that backpack use your song in their advertisement? Freshman Claire Cottrill (better known as Clairo), with thirty-thousand-plus followers on SoundCloud, can say hers did.
Cottrill, a Boston native, is one of 25 in the rigorous Bandier program, which prepares students for the music media industry. Since school started, Cottrill has taken full advantage of music opportunities on campus, even collaborating with artist Jeremy Zucker after his Juice Jam performance.
This week, she sat down with Jerk to answer some questions about her road to SoundCloud stardom.
Jerk: When did you realize your passion for making music?
Claire: I was 14 when I started doing covers of Mumford and Sons and posting them on YouTube, but they wouldn’t get views or anything. My family just watched them. I switched to SoundCloud when I was 15 and started doing less covers and instead started making my own songs. It became a sort of music journal.
Jerk: You get a lot of attention on SoundCloud, was there one song that launched your career?
Claire: I wrote a song when I was 16 called “Bubblegum” that got a lot of attention on YouTube, and that was the song that everyone knew of mine. But it was very singer-songwriter and that’s not what I’m doing anymore. My style has changed so much since then, so I don’t really like the song but it’s cool that other people like it.
Jerk: You’ve grown up a lot since you first got into music, how has that reflected in your music style?
Claire: I was into a lot of indie music at the time, but I got more into rap and R&B. The way that genre is structured is amazing I think. Then I started playing with Ableton, which is a very difficult mixing program. I messed around with it enough to understand how to use it, which is when I started to make more electronic-type stuff and listening to Tyler the Creator, Frank Ocean, and those types of artists.
Jerk: Who is your greatest music inspiration right now?
Claire: Maggie Rogers is really cool for her authenticity. I appreciate when artists are really true to who they are. Maggie Rogers portrays herself in a way that I believe is so important for artists and that’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. If I can hold onto anything as long as I can, that’s what it is.
Jerk: What do you want people to get out of your music?
Claire: People usually say that my music calms them down, which I really appreciate because I’m a very stressed person. It’s nice to know that someone else in the world is stressed out and they listen to me to chill out. People tell me they smoke to my music, too, which I don’t really know how to take, but I also like more mellow music with positive vibes.
Jerk: Having Herschel use your song in their ad is obviously a huge deal, how did that change things for you as an artist?
Claire: We actually have no idea how they came across the song but they picked it up and gave us a check, and that was it. The backpack I use now is actually the same backpack they use in that commercial. They didn’t give it to me, I just wanted it. I come from a very small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business, so when the backpack commercial came out everyone was kind of like “holy shit this isn’t just a hobby.” People at my school started taking me more seriously, so that was cool.
Jerk: What has been the greatest difficulty to overcome in your career so far?
Claire: Like I said, I come from a very small town – no stoplights, everyone knows everyone – and for a long time I was super discouraged by what they said about me. Since I’ve been here, it’s different. Bandier kind of saved me and made me take myself seriously because everyone else here takes music seriously. So I would say the people from my town, but I don’t talk to them anymore. Then there’s always the negative people online, but I can’t really complain because the vast majority of people have been so sweet.
Jerk: On the other hand, what has been the coolest experience you’ve gotten out of this?
Claire: Just having other artists talk to me. People that I respect reach out to me. GoldLink DM’ed me and was like, “Love your song!” and I was like, “What are you talking about? You’re GoldLink. Why are you talking to me?’ Stuff I never thought would happen to me just… happens.
Jerk: What was it like collaborating with Jeremy Zucker?
Claire: I had no idea that was going to happen, but he’s friends with one of my friends and they just invited me to come over. We just fucked around and had a jam session. He was so laid back and normal. He was working on ideas for a bit and we messed around with it and did some other songs we all liked. I think it’s important to collaborate with people and feel each other out to see how you work together.
Jerk: Who is your dream collaboration?
Claire: I would work with Tyler the Creator in like, a second. He’s amazing. Or Smino, or James Blake, really any of them would be so cool.